The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) provides compensation to U.S. citizens who were exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada Proving Ground between Jan. 21, 1951 and Oct. 31, 1958 and from June 30, 1962 to July 17 1962, according to documents presented to the Grand County Council this week by council member Audrey Graham. Kane County, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, and Springdale, Utah have already passed similar resolutions, according to Graham.
RECA originally stipulated that citizens who sought compensation had to be residents of Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, Wayne, Millard, Piute, San Juan, Sevier, and Washington counties in order to be eligible for payments. In 2004, the Utah legislature passed H.J.R. 20, a resolution that would include all counties in the state in the compensation act because residents in the other 19 counties “were exposed to radiation comparable to the residents of currently eligible counties,” according to the information presented to the county council.
In December 2011, the U.S. Senate passed Resolution 330, designating Jan. 27, 2012 as the day of remembrance for “Downwinders,” the name given to Americans working or living downwind from the nuclear testing sites. Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert joined the U.S. Senate by declaring a similar statewide day of remembrance on Jan. 27.
“Many Utah residents who lived downwind from the Nevada National Security Site... were adversely affected, became ill or lost their lives as a result of radiation exposure generated by the above ground nuclear weapons testing,” stated Herbert in his declaration. “Downwinders paid a high price for the development of a nuclear weapons program for the benefit of the United States... [and] deserve to be recognized for their sacrifice.”
Although nuclear weapons testing in the United States ended in 1992 and Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom had all ceased testing between 1991 and 1996, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty signed by all those countries and the U. S. in 1996 has yet to be ratified by Congress. The resolution proposed by Graham also serves to urge the U.S. Senate to ratify the test ban treaty, which would place a ban on further explosive nuclear weapons testing. That aspect of the resolution was also supported by Kane County, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, and Springdale, as well as being the focus of a resolution passed by the Utah House of Representatives in 2010.
Graham also includes uranium miners and millers from the same era in Grand County as part of the resolution; however, there was some discussion among council members about whether the U.S. Senate considers those workers eligible for compensation under RECA. The council decided to review that issue and the resolution documents further before making any decisions, and council members could vote on the resolution as early as their next meeting on March 6.